The Buckeyes are in unfamiliar territory.
No. 9 Ohio State lost its first regular-season game in the Ryan Day-era after last week’s 35-28 upset to then-No. 12 Oregon. Despite totaling over 600 yards of offense, the Buckeyes failed to cash in on fourth down and their defense surrendered an eye-popping 200 yards both on the ground and through the air.
Day said he’s having real, honest conversations with his coaching staff and is taking a hard look at the team’s personnel, coaching and schematic approaches. Even though losses are few and far between for Ohio State, Day said the Buckeyes must capitalize on the learning opportunity presented to them.
“When something goes bad, you find out who people are,” Day said. “That’s called life. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to learn about that and grow. If we come out of this thing strong, it could make us better.”
Ohio State went a difficult 2-for-5 on fourth down and turned possession over via punt and interception on its final two drives against the Ducks. The Buckeyes only ran for 128 yards, their fewest since the Rose Bowl in 2019.
Day said he felt the offensive line “didn’t quite get into a rhythm” when blocking against Oregon, and added the offense “put too much” on redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. In just his second-career start, Stroud threw three touchdowns and 484 yards, the second-highest figure in a single-game in program history.
Junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson said he felt he and the offense “haven’t had a better practice” Wednesday than they had all year. He said he’s noticed a difference within the Buckeyes’ drive to right the ship.
“The energy and just the attention to detail, I feel like it hasn’t been like that since camp started,” Wilson said. “We knew we had some problems, but whenever you lose, it magnifies them all. There’s no room for messing up in practice anymore. If there was before, there’s none at all.”
Tulsa has played Ohio State just once before, coming in a 48-3 drubbing at Ohio Stadium during the 2016 season.
The Golden Hurricane are winless so far this season, but nearly took down Oklahoma State on the road last week, allowing 21 points in the fourth quarter to ultimately fall to 0-2. Tulsa’s defense ranks No. 6 in the American Athletic Conference, but No. 13 nationally in tackles for loss.
Day said Tulsa has a good program under head coach Philip Montgomery, and practice has been all about getting back to the fundamentals in preparation.
“I thought last week, looking at them, the way that they played Oklahoma State, they had the game won and played well,” Day said. “This is a team that’s played for conference championships.”
The Golden Hurricane offense is ranked No. 68 in the NCAA, spearheaded by running backs senior Shamari Brooks and junior Deneric Prince, who’ve each amassed 100 rushing yards so far. Redshirt junior quarterback Davis Brin has completed 61.8 percent of his passes this season, averaging over 212 passing yards per game.
Up front, Tulsa’s run defense ranks fourth-best in the AAC, so it may present a challenge for a Buckeyes’ run game looking to regain form. Junior offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere said he expects to go up against great competition when the Golden Hurricane looms over Ohio Stadium.
“They’re a talented team, I don’t want anyone to get it mistaken,” Petit-Frere said. “They’re a bunch of guys that are going out there and they’re busting their butts every single play. I don’t think there’s anyone on that team that isn’t a good player. They’re all talented, great, Division I athletes. It’s a good team.”
Ohio State’s defense is also seeking to silence critics after Oregon exposed weaknesses in the Buckeyes’ defensive scheme. Day said Kerry Coombs will remain the team’s defensive coordinator, but isn’t happy with the defense’s performance so far this season.
The Buckeyes rank second-to-last in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing over 450 yards per game so far this season. They’ve recorded just five tackles for loss and allowed a third-down conversion rate of over 53 percent — the worst in the conference.
With longstanding winning streaks broken and doubt cast over the team’s performance just two games into the season, the Buckeyes are telling themselves the season is far from over. But, Ohio State must waste little time in correcting its shortcomings.
“Everybody should have a sense of urgency because we can’t lose a game. We’re at Ohio State,” redshirt freshman running back Miyan Williams said. “We’re not supposed to lose, but you’re going to lose some in life. You got to move on from it. We’re trying not to lose again.”
Ohio State and Tulsa will kickoff Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on FS1.